The Public Defender’s Office continues to study the rights protection of children in the Ninotsminda boarding school. Due to the high public interest, the Ombudsman’s Office today spoke to the public about the current situation.
The Public Defender’s Office requested information from the Prosecutor General’s Office of Georgia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia about alleged offenses that have taken place in the boarding house. Based on the information received, investigations were launched into four criminal cases of alleged abuse of minors in 2016-2021. Three cases concern alleged violence (Article 126 of the Criminal Code) and one case concerns alleged rape (Article 137 of the Criminal Code).
At this stage, the Public Defender’s Office does not have detailed information about the alleged offenses, circumstances or persons involved, or the measures taken in response. The Public Defender’s Office has already applied to the responsible agencies for the purpose of obtaining more detailed information.
“Despite evidence of child abuse, and the several ongoing criminal cases, including one for the rape of a minor, the doors of the Church-run Ninotsminda orphanage remain closed to public scrutiny. Even Georgia’s Public Defender has been barred from investigating what is happening at the orphanage,” reports OC Media.
“On 1 June, a protest was held in front of the Chancellery of the Government of Georgia, where about 100 people demanded that the conditions within the Ninotsminda Orphanage, a closed religious boarding house, must be investigated and made public. However, neither the Public Defender of Georgia, Nino Lomjaria, nor the Public Defender’s monitoring group have been allowed to meet with the children staying at the orphanage,” reads the article.
The doors of the Ninotsminda boarding house, which is subordinate to the Patriarchate, have been, with rare exceptions, completely hidden from public scrutiny for years, despite reports of dire conditions in the orphanage.
The refusal comes directly from the Archbishop of Skhalta, Reverend Spiridon, who says that “they will never enter there.”
A social worker was last admitted to the Javakheti Orphanage in June 2020. Since then, Reverend Spiridon has refused to open the doors – as Radio Liberty was told in the Public Defender’s Office, there is an official response from the Social Agency, which states that their social worker will not be allowed in the boarding school at the behest of Reverend Spiridon.
By Ana Dumbadze